A story with a question: ‘Who am I?’


By Betty Slade

PREVIEW Columnist

Movie watching is a good way to spend time in self-isolation. It’s been awhile since my Sweet Al and I watched the same movie two days in a row, then talked about it over the many that followed.

“Ford v Ferrari” is based on a true story. Two lead characters, Christian Bale played Ken Miles and Matt Damon played Carroll Shelby.

This was a story about friendship — hidden heroes in their own right, Ken Miles, a fearless British race car driver and Carroll Shelby, an American automotive designer. Theirs, a story with a subtle but profound message or rather, a question: “Who am I?”


Ken Miles was a gifted man, also a hothead who knew more than his contemporaries. He could listen to the roar of an engine or feel the float of a chassis and tell you exactly what it was thinking.

Miles was someone Henry Ford II, Deuce, needed if he was going to compete against Enzo Ferrari’s racing team in the ’66 Le Mans. But, he wasn’t a company man. He was someone who played by his own rules.

He didn’t have the sponsorship that provided him a car. That said, he had something money couldn’t buy. He was born to drive.

Carroll Shelby believed in Ken and knew his talents stretched beyond anything known at the time. He decided to put his business, Shelby American Raceway, on the line. Anything to give Ken Miles a chance to show what kind of racer he could be on the track.

Shelby loved racing, but had a heart condition that pushed him out from behind the steering wheel. His would become a battle against corporate politics and difficult personalities in order to see his friend run the green flag.

I won’t be a spoiler for those who haven’t seen the movie. I will say, that “the win” was an unexpected twist. It had less to do with a checkered flag and more to do with the relationship forged between two men.

I thought it was an excellent story, but one that challenged its critics. “Why did this story happen in the first place and why should we care? There was something crucially important missing from the film,” written in an article signed by McGuffin. “McGuffin,” a term coined by Alfred Hitchcock. It is the thing that drives the action in a story forward. Or, as written of this film, something the critics felt was missing.

I would tell “McGuffin” that I care. The twist of a real-life plot seemed to eclipse the story of how two men conquered the world they lived in. The movie was so much more than racing cars at 200 mph and 7,000 rpm.

In fact, I think the critics missed the real meaning of the story. It was about a man who couldn’t promote himself, a man whose ability to achieve was suppressed and the friendship that allowed them to accomplish more than they could have on their own.

A Forbes’ writer stated that the film missed the mark because it didn’t portray the real story behind Ford’s image. “(it was) A slide show narrated by Lee Ioccoca, who worked with Ford at the time and known as the Father of the Mustang … tells how the rot in the company was much deeper than the film conveys.”

Final brushstroke: We don’t need to be on a pit crew to see the exhaust of corporate dissension as it tries to cover its tracks. We just need to know the story of two friends who stand at the finish line, filling in where the other misses. They didn’t need the image of a corporation to make them who they were, just a friendship that achieved more than the world of motor sports ever could.

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